It is not unusual in my program for students who can’t find jobs after finishing their degrees to come back for a Masters, thinking that extra credentials might make them more marketable. I nod and smile and encourage them, all the while worrying that the American Dream of success through education is going to fail them.
I thought of them today: This new data on growing debt for graduate school is daunting.
Yet what are their options, having done everything according to the book yet still unable to find their footing?
The full article is here.
There have been many tweets and Facebook postings about Sunday’s NYT article on low-income students and the obstacles they face getting to college. The detailed reporting on the three high-achieving girls, their mentor, and the multiple things that got in their way has generated over 1200 comments to date, many of them surprisingly empathetic.
Some thoughts, after thinking about this piece for a few days:
1. The article ran on the front page of my edition of the times, and while I’m grateful for the conversation, I am dismayed that the deep connection between social class and college access is still front page news.
2. In any article like this, the obtuse financial aid form — the FAFSA — is critiqued, yet promised revisions that don’t “require a Ph.D.” are nowhere on the horizon.
3. While the personalization of the bigger story is compelling, the much bigger picture of deep institutional classism can too easily get lost in talk about bad boyfriends, an indifferent college administrator, and complex families. Middle class students may experience any of those things and yet still thrive in college and beyond.
Thoughts about the ways that these young women were portrayed in the article?
In the complicated set of values and beliefs that is the American Dream, I find so many contradictions in this article on parents unable to cover loans that they took out to pay for the children’s college. An excerpt:
There are record numbers of student borrowers in financial distress, according to federal data. But millions of parents who have taken out loans to pay for their children’s college education make up a less visible generation in debt. For the most part, these parents did well enough through midlife to take on sizable loans, but some have since fallen on tough times because of the recession, health problems, job loss or lives that took a sudden hard turn.
And unlike the angry students who have recently taken to the streets to protest their indebtedness, most of these parents are too ashamed to draw attention to themselves.
These parents were doing exactly what good parents are supposed to do: Make it possible for their children to attend college. They played the odds that the things that they believed that they had earned were theirs to keep. And they lost.
I wonder if it would be easier to get beyond the political impasse over economic policies in this country if those who have played by the rules — and lost — start feeling outrage instead of shame.